This year, San Luis Obispo became the second city in California, after Fresno, to allow tiny houses in residential backyards.
That's right, folks, the tiny-house movement is sweeping through SLO Town—and advocates say its arrival holds promise as a new solution to the housing crisis.
- Photo By Peter Johnson
- TINY HOUSE ED SmartShare Housing Solutions invites the community to a tiny-house expo Oct. 11–13 at Madonna Meadows. Attendees will get a chance to tour tiny houses, including this one on Mill Street.
"We all know the housing shortage and [affordability] challenge is extreme here," said Celeste Goyer, operations director for SmartShare Housing Solutions, an organization helping local residents resolve their housing challenges. "We need as many solutions as we can find."
To help introduce residents to tiny houses—and educate them on what it takes to make them a reality—the nonprofit is holding a Tiny Footprint Expo, Oct. 11 to 13, at Madonna Meadows.
The expo will showcase tiny homes to tour, and has a full slate of scheduled workshops and presentations from tiny-home builders, sustainable living advocates, affordable housing experts, city officials, and others.
"We knew education was going to be required so the community could understand what exactly was being allowed. We thought it was important to step into this role," Goyer said about organizing the expo. "It's a chance to listen to talks and panel discussions on all the areas that people need information about—everything from the permit process, to what is a qualifying backyard, to how can you downsize into living in one."
The expo kicks off with a VIP event on Friday, Oct. 11, featuring keynote speaker Eli Spevak, a leader in the city of Portland's affordable housing community ($75 per ticket, good for all three days). The events continue on Oct. 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. ($8 per weekend day; tickets available beforehand at homeshareslo.org/tiny-footprint-expo; $5 for parking).
Goyer said she's expecting at least a few thousand attendees for the inaugural event.
"Interest is very high, I think partially because of the housing pressure that we have," she said.
Organizers hope the expo will debunk some common misperceptions about tiny homes—that they're cramped and unlivable, poorly built, and poorly insulated. Before putting the event together, the nonprofit leaders took a trip to Fresno to see some houses up close.
"They're solidly built, well constructed [homes] that just happened to be on trailers instead of foundations," Goyer said. "They were beautiful, light and bright, more spacious than we imagined, just totally livable."
Since SLO city legalized tiny homes earlier this year, it's permitted two—one on Mill Street close to downtown and another near French Hospital.
New Times recently got the chance to tour both homes, and they lived up to the hype. Their designs—high ceilings, plenty of windows, thoughtful use of space—and quality materials and appliances make them feel classy and efficient, as opposed to confined.
Rita Morris' home, which she had built by a contractor in Los Osos, features a full kitchen, bathroom, couch area, and loft for her bedroom. Every square foot has intention behind it. Tiny homes in general have maximum heights of 13.5 feet and widths of 8 feet—with a maximum allowable square footage of 400. Morris' is even a bit smaller than that.
"Honestly, I can't think of one item that I miss. I really can't," Morris said of downsizing to the tiny home. "I'm so happy here. It's a pleasure in so many ways."
Purchasing a tiny home is significantly less expensive than buying a house with land in SLO, advocates note. They can cost between $40,000 and $70,000, and the next step is connecting with a willing property owner to host it (and charge rent for the backyard space). Conversely, property owners can decide to install tiny homes in their backyards, and rent them out to tenants.
Supporters say that however tiny homes come into being, they'll be a welcome addition to the local housing landscape. Goyer hopes that the upcoming expo will help inform the community of their benefits.
"It's to educate and inspire people so that the new ordinance can result in homes on the ground," Goyer said.
• The Central Coast Aquarium in Avila Beach presents another season of its preschool program, Mommies & Guppies, a monthly event from October to May designed for preschoolers and adults to explore the aquarium together. It takes place the first Monday of each month, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Call (805) 595-7280 or visit centralcoastaquarium.com for more info. Δ
Assistant Editor Peter Johnson wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to firstname.lastname@example.org.